Women in scientific careers - Science and Technology Committee Contents

4  Practicalities of an academic career

Early career instability


40. Academic research funding is provided through the dual-support system where the four UK Higher Education Funding Councils provide core funding for infrastructure, including permanent staff costs, and the Research Councils award grants for specific research groups and projects.[193] Other funding sources for research include charities and the private sector. Following completion of a PhD, Post-Doctoral Researchers (PDRs, also referred to as "post-docs") are usually employed under a series of short-term contracts of one to five years before gaining a permanent academic contract.[194] A typical research group would be led by a Principal Investigator (PI) and a number of post-docs and PhD students who carry out research under the supervision of the PI. The PI, who is usually a permanent member of staff, applies for funding for specific projects (for example, research grants) and appoints post-docs to work on those projects.[195] Grant funding is usually tied to a particular PI at one institution under whom a post-doc may be employed on a fixed term basis. Alternatively, post-docs may obtain a research fellowship, where funds are awarded directly to an individual to pursue their choice of independent research, typically for up to 5 years.[196] Because fellowship funding is attached to an individual, the researcher (PI or post-doc) has greater choice over where to do their research.

41. The Society of Biology highlighted that short term contracts encouraged mobility between institutions both nationally and internationally to "expand training and skills development".[197] This was considered to be useful to the scientific community as movement of post-docs fostered collaboration between research groups on an international scale and "institutions recognise that collaborations borne from the movement of scientists invigorate science through discussion and the exchange of ideas".[198] Professor Uta Frith, Russell Group, explained that "short-term contracts are probably inevitable in a very competitive situation" and that they encouraged innovation.[199] She added that short term contracts were a way of ending research projects that had originally seemed "promising" but were not.[200] Short term contracts are beneficial to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the employers of post-docs, according to a report by our predecessor committee, which found that:

    The employing university benefits from short-term contracts in that it employs a researcher only for the duration of the external research grant. It need make no predictions about its ability to attract funding for future research for which an individual researcher is qualified. Put simply, the university places all the risk over its future research income onto the researcher.[201]

For a typical post-doc, the period of employment under short term contracts occurs when they are 25-35 years old, meaning early academic careers are "relatively unstable in what is known to be a crucial period [...] for both men and women".[202] This instability can make it difficult to secure a mortgage and "inhibits continuity of employment rights".[203] The Society of Applied Microbiology considered that "this is discouraging for scientists who also wish to establish a stable home and family".[204] The STFC WiSTEM Network explained that the need to be geographically mobile "particularly during early career, is a major obstacle highlighted by women, especially when contrasted with the financial rewards and stability other careers with such demands can bring in the long term".[205] Bournemouth University highlighted that post-docs with a partner suffer additional difficulties; if the partner has a job outside academia they may not be geographically mobile and the "partner's non-academic career can often be prioritised, being more likely to provide a permanent rather than fixed term contract and therefore more stability".[206] If both partners are in academia they can suffer from the "two-body" problem where "if one member of an academic couple accepts a job in a distant location, it can be very difficult for the other to follow, without their career being negatively affected".[207] While this can affect both women and men, a 2010 survey showed that "42% of females had partners working in STEMM (compared to 29% of males)" making it a proportionally larger issue for women.[208] The Open University stated that in dual academic careers, "women are more likely to follow their male partners than the reverse" if there is a need to relocate.[209] Professor Dame Julia Higgins explained that "historically, it has usually been the woman's career that has given way to the man's career" and that although "it should not automatically be the woman who gives in [...] it nearly always is".[210] The situation is exacerbated by some research fellowships specifying that a post-doc must relocate to a different university or country: these tend to be from charity or industry funders, for example the Marie Curie and Wellcome Trust Fellowships in life sciences and AXA research fellowship.[211] For post-docs considering starting a family, the lack of a permanent position can impact on their entitlement to maternity leave.[212] Therefore the early stages of academia are where most women are lost in the "leaky pipeline" of science careers.[213]

42. The ScienceGrrl Campaign explained that many male and female scientists were unhappy with the system. For example, a male post-doc stated that he was "tired of the nomadic lifestyle which had prevented settling down" and added that "it's also played havoc with long-term financial stability with regards to pensions and house buying".[214] A female lecturer considered that had she not gained a permanent post she would have "left academia as I had reached the point where I could no longer deal with the uncertainty and moving around".[215] Dr Nicola Patron, a UK academic whose partner lives in Australia, stated that "my current contract is for two years and I expect that at least one more national or international move will be necessary".[216] Dr Patron explained that short term contracts were a problem for productivity as a significant proportion of time would be spent on securing the next contract.[217] In 2011, the Science is Vital Campaign produced the report Careering Out of Control: A Crisis in the UK Science Profession? which stated that "the constant cycling of new people through labs on short-term contracts is detrimental to productivity as expertise is lost and has to be constantly refreshed".[218] Prospect stated that "there are strong concerns related to funding for research and the short term nature of many contracts in research, even in fields where the research is more valuable when it is long term, such as climate science".[219]

43. Some research funders are moving towards offering longer term grants and fellowships, for example, Dr Leslie Thompson, Research Councils UK (RCUK), stated that "it has been a policy of [the EPSRC[220]] to move from less than 5 per cent of our grants being of three years or longer in duration to a third of the grants being of a longer duration".[221] Dr Thompson also stated that "institutions don't always use the flexibility they could have for managing their population of short-term researchers as creatively as they might do".[222] She considered that this was "because the responsibility is, more often than not, put on the shoulders of the individual research lecturer, not on the shoulders of the department or the institution as the employer".[223] The Women's Engineering Society suggested that "a clear career path should be devised for all universities which enables a route up the ladder without having to move from city to city or having to take fixed term contracts".[224] Dr Patron suggested that funding agencies should "offer competitive long-term fellowships (2-3 years) that do not require relocation but which do provide funding for short term travel to other labs (1-3 months) so that collaborative networks are still built".[225] Other suggestions included that research councils could "provide a greater number of long-term fellowships" or "offer new competitive Fellowship schemes specifically aimed at academics who have had to relocate in order to follow a partner".[226] The University of Oxford suggested that HEIs should provide post-docs "with a month free from lab work to write their next application; or bridging funding of three months [or] a part-time position to sustain their research career between external contracts".[227] Bridging funding was also recommended by others.[228] The Royal Academy of Engineering considered that as the Government "has a substantial influence over university culture through the funding provision it makes and the level of certainty of future funding levels", an "increase in the level of future funding certainty would help the HE sector to plan and underwrite more longer term contracts for staff".[229] The Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering went further and suggested that "legislation could be introduced to limit the use of short term contracts".[230]

44. The Minister considered that "the life of a post-doctoral researcher is pretty tough" and that having "to move around on short-term contracts" might "be off-putting for some women".[231] When asked about short term contracts in research, the Minister explained "we have always got to get a balance between short and long term [contracts], but with things like Royal Society fellowships, which we support financially, there are opportunities to get work done on a much longer time scale".[232] The Minister stated that "the Vitae career development requirements are very good, in that they say that the PI—the organisation employing you on the contract—has an obligation to think about your long-term interests, advise you on what to do next and help you on that", which he noted had "been one of the big omissions in the past".[233]

45. Balancing the benefits of short term contracts with the needs of Post-Doctoral Researchers was examined by our predecessor committee in 2002. We are disappointed at the lack of progress in the last decade. The system of short term employment contracts for post-docs results in job insecurity and discontinuity of employment rights that is difficult for any researcher, but disproportionally deters women from continuing with science careers. It also has implications for workforce productivity.

46. We are pleased that some research funders are recognising the benefits of long term contracts to academic careers and encourage others to follow this example. We encourage Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to provide longer term posts for post-docs, recognising the benefit to scientific progress of continuing expertise.

47. We recommend that the Government should work with the Higher Education sector to review the academic career structure and increase the number of more stable and permanent post-doc positions.

48. International collaboration brings benefits to science but requiring researchers to relocate is not the only way to promote it. We suggest that research funders should remove from fellowship conditions any requirements for researchers to move institute or country and instead provide funding for shorter visits to other institutes for collaboration purposes. We recommend that research funders work with HEIs to create funding for permanent post-doc positions.

49. Wherever possible, HEIs should provide three months of bridging funding for post-docs, to allow them time to apply for new contracts.

Time away from research

50. Throughout their career a researcher's success is measured by their track record, which means securing grant funding for research and publishing their research as papers.[234] Achieving funding and having a good publication record are interlinked: a good publication record usually attracts funding.[235] However, assessing publication records by the number and impact of papers produced "militates against career breaks or reduced working hours".[236] For example, the h index, a commonly used measure, makes no allowance for time away from research or for part time working.[237] The Royal Academy of Engineering explained that:

    This emphasis on individual output over a specific period of time presents a fundamental difficulty for those wishing to take a career break to change employment patterns or working hours whilst maintaining progress to higher grades within the university [...] [It] can affect any staff who need to juggle research demands with childcare or other caring responsibilities, or even those who wished to take a sabbatical to work in industry.[238]


51. Women researchers may be more likely than men to participate in non-research activities such as teaching and outreach. The British Medical Association stated that women "end up carrying out non-research roles [...] more often than men, reducing the time available for their research activities".[239] The London Mathematical Society explained that "surveys of women mathematicians show that many women feel that they are often asked to take on teaching and pastoral roles".[240] Promotion in STEM careers "is assessed by criteria such as research income and publication output, metrics that have been recently shown to discriminate against women".[241] Promotion criteria also "tend to under-emphasise other activities such as student-oriented roles, including pastoral care and teaching, and community-oriented roles such as departmental administration or outreach work".[242] The STFC WiSTEM Network stated that:

    academic scientists spend a considerable proportion of their time communicating (in articles, at conferences and seminars), networking, writing grant proposals, supervising students, managing staff, teaching and—increasingly—performing public outreach activities and working on the commercial exploitation of their findings.[243]

However, such activities are not formally recognised or rewarded in a systematic way across the HE sector. The British Medical Association considered that such activities which "impact adversely on research profiles and career progression, should be acknowledged and valued".[244] There was also a view that "the definition of excellence used is often too narrowly focused on specific research-related metrics".[245] The Royal Academy of Engineering recommended that "HEIs' promotions criteria should be examined to ensure that contributions across management, out-reach, knowledge transfer activity, teaching [and] research are equally and appropriately recognised".[246] The Physiological Society suggested that there should be "greater scrutiny to ensure that truly unbiased measures are used and supported".[247] The STFC WiSTEM Network stated that "quantitative measures of staff and job applicants' productivity such as number of papers published and h-index should be replaced with a comprehensive evaluation of the person's contribution to the organisation and the field".[248] For example, there should be "acknowledgement and credit for tasks such as organisation of group seminars, engagement with visiting school-children, mentoring junior colleagues, taking on placement students, acting as counsellors".[249]


52. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and will be completed in 2014.[250] The REF will be used by funding councils to assess HEIs for quality-related funding (block grants).[251] The REF does not measure non-research activities but is a measure of the quality of research at an institution.[252] Individuals are still measured by their publications and citations but the REF compensates for researchers who have taken a career break or are working part time (for example, fewer publications).[253] The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) manages the REF exercise on behalf of the four UK Higher Education funding bodies.[254] David Sweeney, Chief Executive of HEFCE, stated that the REF now required:

    only four outputs per person submitted. If you have career gaps, we allow the number of outputs to decrease. We have provided considerable advice to institutions on when it is appropriate for that to happen. There are some clearly defined circumstances that you can just apply formulaically, and for more complex circumstances, such as caring responsibilities, we have an equalities and diversity advisory panel that considers cases that institutions put. We are absolutely determined that clear gaps, whether it is from gender-related issues or industry engagement, should not hinder those who are really good from demonstrating their excellence.[255]

53. When asked about the measurement of non-research activities, Mr Sweeney stated that "nationally and internationally, [...] there is no appropriate robust measure of the quality of teaching".[256] In October 2013, the Minister stated that "one of the principal aims of this Government's higher education reforms has been to place students back at the heart of universities where they belong" which "means strengthening the incentives to focus on teaching".[257] He considered that:

    the academic community and governments have created very strong competitive funding for research which drives such excellent performance across a breadth of disciplines. However there was no matching incentive to focus on teaching [...] the pendulum has swung too far away from teaching.[258]

The Royal Society of Chemistry suggested that "HEFCE reviews the REF process to check for any potential, unintended effects on the gender balance in STEM disciplines" as "procedures that may have unintended consequences are those that do not recognise collaborative ways of working, which women tend to prefer, and procedures that lead to (or reflect) particular individuals having a celebrity-like status within their community - the majority [of] whom are currently men".[259] Mr Sweeney confirmed that HEFCE:

    will publish the equality impact assessments that institutions have done and we will do a very detailed analysis ourselves, possibly also with the Equality Challenge Unit, as we did in 2009, looking at the outcome. We will see if we have made progress since 2001, which is when I am aware that we first did such an analysis.[260]

The Minister hoped "that the impact measure [of the REF] will help ensure that some of the outreach and communication activity is properly valued for the first time" and that "we will put into the next grant letter [to HEFCE] very clear guidance on understanding diversity challenges [...] in its approach to the funding of universities".[261] We appreciate that funding from research councils and the REF must be based on scientific and research excellence and support the continuation of this principle. We are satisfied that HECFE takes seriously the issue of monitoring the gender impact of the REF.

54. We recommend that HEIs and heads of research groups should ensure that important non-research activities are recognised in performance appraisals and promotion boards.


55. Although it varies by STEM discipline, the "average age for appointment to lecturer grade" is around 34 years.[262] Dr June McCombie told us that this is "when you are eligible for all of the allowances for maternity leave, for support when you come back".[263] This means that "women may have to make difficult decisions about when to settle down and start a family" because "having a child before a permanent appointment may mean losing a huge amount of time in the early career stages, but waiting until a permanent appointment may mean progressing to senior levels less quickly".[264] Dr Katherine Sloyan summarised the situation as "an unpleasant choice: risk not having children or risk having to restart my career in my mid-thirties".[265] There is legislation to protect women: the Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination towards women due to pregnancy or maternity leave.[266] However, the Institute of Physics stated that there is "anecdotal evidence from many of our members in academia that maternity leave is often organised ad-hoc, poorly implemented at the departmental level and women are not properly informed of their entitlements".[267] There are some issues "surrounding funding when women leave on maternity and whether research can be paused or covered during their leave".[268] Bournemouth University explained that returning to work following maternity leave can also be "particularly challenging" as women must "catch up on research work after a year's absence" without "additional administrative support or reduction in teaching workload".[269] Cardiff University stated that there was also pressure on women to "come back as early as possible" in order for "individuals to retain the same teaching duties and administrative responsibilities, and also keep up their publication output or 'research productivity'".[270] For post-docs on short contracts, an additional problem may be "the contract status of women taking maternity leave: depending on the timing of the birth of a child they may be not be eligible for full maternity pay".[271] To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay a woman must be in employment for 26 weeks before the end of the 15th week before the baby is due.[272] Katrine Rogers explained that as she was on a short-term contract, she was unable to return to her previous position after maternity leave, and was also "unable to benefit from contractual maternity pay".[273] The Equality Challenge Unit explained that:

    Maternity leave remains the main reason for a career break, and our experience shows that many universities enforce women in dual-career families to take responsibility for childcare by restricting paternity leave [...] This means that the current culture of academic science is disproportionately harmful to women.[274]

Because the length of time required to achieve a permanent post coincides "with the time at which people are seeking to purchase houses and/or start a family", many women "leave academia, or never enter it in the first place, in favour of more stable careers".[275] The "lack of successful female role models with families" perpetuates the situation.[276] The STFC WiSTEM Network stated that some "women fear that a career in STEM cannot be reconciled with their (future) domestic life" although for some, "an academic STEM job often offers greater flexibility than a teaching job when it comes to raising a family".[277]

56. The Russell Group Equality Forum explained that "caring for family members is increasingly becoming an issue for men as well as women" and that "this should be recognised and men should be facilitated to play active roles as carers for both children and elders". [278] This would "serve to balance the responsibilities of caring between genders and a change in attitudes towards these issues, allowing for greater flexibility in careers".[279] Jenny Marsden, Principal Physicist, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, stated that promoting "child caring for both genders more equally, as in Sweden" was "changing the culture, so there is not the unconscious bias in employing women that they might go off and have children".[280] She added that "you employ someone between the ages of 20 and 40 and, whether they are male or female, they may have a career break".[281] It was suggested that:

a)  Research funders should be "more flexible" and consider extensions of funding and time for maternity leave; [282]

b)  Research funders and Principal Investigators "should be open to flexible working options", including "enable[ing] time and support for women when they need to start planning their next move":[283]

c)  HEIs should "provide additional support to help scientists through the difficulties of running their research group while on maternity or paternity leave" including "providing funding for a post-doc to support the lab in their absence and making effective use of keeping-in-touch (KIT) days";[284]

d)  Academics returning from maternity leave could be "offered a 6 month period, in which they are relieved of teaching duties so that they can focus on their research work";[285] and

e)  The "learned or professional societies could consider free/flexible membership for people on parental leave [...] as a means of keeping up to date and in touch with your profession while on leave and potentially reducing the barriers to re-entry following a career break".[286]

57. Dr Thompson, RCUK, stated that:

    Any research council grant will cover any additional costs of paid maternity leave of researchers employed on the grant and the period of the grant can be extended. Researchers can be employed part time. Any fellowship pays maternity leave, if that is needed, and they can be extended. They can be held part time or they can be changed to part-time working. Studentships allow for six months at full stipend for the six months of unpaid extension. At the end of the day, the universities are the [employers]. We are aware, following discussions with the Russell Group, that not everybody fully understands the flexibility that we provide on research grants. So we have undertaken to produce new guidance that makes sure this is absolutely crystal clear to the community.[287]

The Children and Families Bill is currently progressing through the House of Lords.[288] Under the provisions of that Bill, working mothers and fathers will be able to share parental leave when a baby is born.[289]

58. There appears to be a lack of coordination and communication between research funders and HEIs which, exacerbated by the use of short term contracts, results in women falling into cracks in the funding system when maternity support is required. Research funders need to make their maternity provisions clearer to researchers and their employers.

59. We have recommended a review of the academic careers system which should examine how to better support women taking maternity leave and help them integrate back into the workplace. A move towards longer-term employment of academic researchers should encourage maternity provisions in line with other employment sectors.

60. We support the shared parental leave system being proposed by the Children and Families Bill, as shared parental leave is an important step towards creating equality for everyone in the workplace. However, simply introducing a new system will not in itself change workplace attitudes towards maternity, or the difficulties caused by taking parental leave. Academia will still need to address the real and perceived career damage which can be caused by taking parental leave.


61. Women are more likely than men to work part time.[290] The Institute for Physics and Engineering in Medicine stated that the main reason for flexible working is "balancing childcare responsibilities with the demands of a career in science" and considered that "there appears to be a dearth of opportunity for sufficiently flexible working patterns, or real commitment to 'family-friendly' policies".[291] Where flexibility or part-time working does exist, "there is a perception that career progression is more difficult, as quantity is valued and quality alone is not enough".[292] Under the Working Time Regulations, employers cannot normally expect adults to work in excess of 48 hours per week, averaged over 17 weeks.[293] As highlighted in the previous chapter, there is a perception that it is "impossible to work part-time in science and be successful".[294] There is "a long-hours culture in academia and [...] there may be little point in working part-time in a university, particularly if the reality is that full-time working means regularly working 60 hours per week".[295] The Society for Applied Microbiology explained that "measurement of success is usually by output, and what can be achieved in a normal working week is not seen as competitive for funding or career progression".[296] As a result, "researchers are regularly working six or seven days a week and clocking up hours far in excess of contractual obligations" and "this particularly impacts women early in their research careers when they may also be taking on additional responsibilities within the family context".[297] The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) stated that there is a "frequent requirement in STEMM for individuals to be in a specific lab or the field at set times resulting in lack of opportunities for genuine flexible working".[298] The Royal Academy of Engineering explained that "local culture within the HEI management is probably the most significant factor in how flexible or otherwise a HE environment is in practice".[299] The ECU highlighted the importance of defining core working hours and stated that "women are more likely to take advantage of [...] appropriate core hours (e.g. 10:00 - 16:00)".[300] The ECU noted that some universities operate core hours that are "often not fully enforced or [...] flexible" which "means that staff can be excluded from meetings held later in the day, for example if they need to collect children from school".[301] An additional difficulty for primary carers is that caring responsibilities may not be compatible with "activities that are often viewed as essential for a successful academic career" such as "international travel for conferences".[302] Childcare is also "extremely expensive".[303]

62. All HEIs should review the working hours of their academic staff and the management of research groups to ensure that practices are in keeping with the needs of those employees with caring responsibilities. Such matters should not be devolved down to research groups. Line managers who pressure staff into working unreasonably long working hours should be held to account by their employer. In addition, every academic researcher should have a named contact within the HEI's human resources team to whom they can confidentially direct queries.

63. Scientific research cannot always take place within regular working hours. However, we recommend that research departments should determine and operate appropriate core working hours with flexibility outside of those core hours. This would ensure that most staff members are available for key meetings while ensuring that those with caring responsibilities are not disproportionately disadvantaged. Fellowships and academic positions should be advertised with the option of working part time unless there are insurmountable obstacles to such an arrangement.


64. The Daphne Jackson Trust explained that "parental leave (incl. maternity, paternity and adoption leave) is usually relatively short term, well planned and most employers have good regulations in place for managing returns" whereas "a break of more than 24 months (2 years), is often not planned".[304] It explained that:

    women may have children and expect to return to work following maternity leave. But many find that having a family is coupled with relocation with a partner. This often means a planned maternity leave extends into a longer career break. In other instances, women may have to deal with unexpected illness, or caring responsibilities for older relatives.[305]

A survey from the Institute of Physics showed that women were almost three times as likely to have taken a career break in the last five years as men (14.3% compared to 5%).[306] A research career break "can have a severe long-term effect [compared to] other professions" because it causes a "hiatus in [...] publication record" and can "negatively affect the annual performance on the grant and the ability to obtain new research grants".[307] Researchers may "lose their up-to-date knowledge of fast-changing research fields" even after only "short periods away from work".[308] Dr Nicola Patron stated that there was a "career scar" that "drags on from that break [...] as grants/fellowships not applied for while on leave translate to more years without funding and publications".[309] She added that she would "never chance taking a career break" as she did not think she would "ever be able to get back".[310]

65. Career breaks "require appropriate management, to reduce impact on research and avoid the attrition of talented individuals". [311] The Medical Schools Council and Dental Schools Council explained that this included "sufficient time planning the break", retaining links with "'Keep in Touch' days or email updates" and "funding for staff absence, to avoid overburdening colleagues and to assist the returner".[312] The Daphne Jackson Trust supports women and men wishing to return to a research career following a break of two or more years taken for family, caring or health reasons.[313] Fellowships are normally two years in length and based at universities and industrial laboratories in the UK where Fellows undertake a challenging research project and a retraining programme.[314] The Daphne Jackson Trust has "a 96% success rate in returning [its] Fellows to science, engineering or technology careers".[315] Over 90% of its Fellows are women returning to research following a career break to bring up children and the Trust has helped more than 220 women make a successful return to a research career since 1992.[316] Dr Gemma Sweeney, a Daphne Jackson Fellow, stated that "without this opportunity, it would have been highly unlikely I would have returned to a career in science" and added that "after such a long career break I would not be confident of applying for a position for which I am qualified".[317] The Trust explained that "seven out of ten [Daphne Jackson] fellows stay in research for at least 2 years after completing their fellowship".[318] It also explained that:

    Fellows carry out their research within UK universities and industrial research institutions, The Trust provides the infrastructure and expertise required to recruit, select, and re-train fellows and administer the awards, whilst the host institution covers overheads and consumable costs, and salary support is provided by external sponsors such as the UK research councils, universities, charities, learned societies and industrial partners. Many universities both sponsor and host fellows.[319]

66. The Trust receives 43 per cent of its funding from the Research Councils.[320] In November 2013 the Government announced that it would provide "£40,000 to support the Daphne Jackson Trust to develop a new fellowship to support people returning to professional engineering jobs after a career break".[321] However, the Minister clarified that this funding was "for a study about how much more they can do on the whole question of someone returning to science after taking a career break" and "not specifically for a set number of fellowships".[322] There was significant support expressed for the work of the Daphne Jackson Trust during our inquiry.[323] A key way to increase the participation of women in STEM careers is to enable them to return following career breaks. We are pleased that the Government is providing financial support to the Daphne Jackson Trust so that it can develop a new fellowship in engineering. We encourage more HEIs to sponsor and host Daphne Jackson Fellows.

Careers advice and support

67. Dr Patron highlighted that "very few group leaders and PhD supervisors encourage [other] careers" and highlighted "a paper in the United States not so long ago which said that, even though only 30% of PhD graduates would have a career in academia, 80% think they are going to have a career in academia; and 95% had only been spoken to about careers in academia, so they are not preparing themselves for other careers".[324] Dr Jones stated that "employers out there simply do not understand in any detail what high-performing scientists are capable of doing" and suggested that "we need vastly improved careers advice to help those of us who have left the academic system to find new jobs".[325] Jenny Marsden stated that "the workplace has changed; you can have many careers during your working life, and that ought to be promoted as well. Studying science is one way to access lots of different things you could do, if it is properly sold".[326] She added that "we ought to have better connections with companies and people looking for top-quality science graduates and science PhD students" and indicated that companies could market themselves "by saying they offer good flexible working practice".[327] ScienceGrrl considered that "it is unrealistic to continue telling PhD students and post-docs that an academic track is the only successful way to use their STEM education and training" and that:

    Retaining talent is important, and investing in a new tier of 'permanent researchers' is one approach, but there are many successful paths in addition to academia. We believe that it would be useful to reframe the pipeline to include those who move to other primary and secondary STEM careers. With this in mind, our members have told us that they would value better early careers advice regarding awareness of these opportunities, training in how to compete/succeed in other sectors and to find ways to ensure qualifications and experiences accrued to date were more formally recognised and appreciated by other sectors.[328]

Dr Jones considered that "established academics tend to under-appreciate the deficiencies in the academic careers system [...] they managed to obtain permanent jobs and therefore assume that the system cannot be too bad".[329] Others "fail to recognise that support that was given to them that proved critical in them getting permanent positions".[330] The Institute of Physics explained that from a survey of their members "only 40% of all the PDRs reported that they felt that they were respected and well regarded in their department" and that "factors such as a lack of a comprehensive induction, poor appraisal, lack of mentoring and lack of impartial careers advice all contributed to this".[331] The Society for Applied Microbiology stated that "many senior professionals, including scientists, lack the skills and training to be effective managers of people", a problem that "should be addressed as a matter of great urgency".[332] The University of Oxford considered that "within many science disciplines, work is organised into large research groups, which are often described as having a 'sink or swim' culture, with few formal reporting or support mechanisms".[333] It stated that "the evidence is that the absence of such mechanisms is largely neutral for men, but has a significant negative effect for women, who place a higher value on structured support".[334]

68. Mr Sweeney stated that HEFCE provided "block-grant funding to universities, which is intended to provide a degree of stability for universities" and that HEFCE "expect[ed] universities to use that wisely in supporting their staff".[335] Mentoring, careers advice, work placements and regular feedback "all help from the earliest stages to develop women's confidence as a scientist".[336] The Minister stated that "the Vitae researcher development framework is supposed to provide a framework for career development, aimed not just at women".[337] He highlighted the importance of "proper access to career advice and proper guidance [...] not simply a hire-and-fire culture within a university or research institute".[338]

69. Careers advice is also a key element in encouraging children into STEM careers. Pier Logistics and Cardiff University stated that "there is strong evidence demonstrating that the provision of quality advice/guidance enabling students to make the right careers choices in STEM is pivotal".[339] They added that "the kinds of professional careers advice on offer to many of the UK's school-children is limited and fragmentary and increasingly exported to an online (more cost-effective) interface".[340] We have recently criticised the Government's changes to the provision of careers advice to students.[341] Careers advice and support for academic STEM researchers is important for both men and women, but a lack of it can affect women disproportionately. HEIs and learned societies should encourage mentoring, support networks and seminars at the research group level and monitor this practice. We note that such activities are encouraged by the Athena SWAN charter.

70. Authoritative and impartial careers advice on options outside academia should be available to all undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as researchers.

Destinations of leavers

71. The discourse around women leaving STEM careers is often based on an assumption that to leave STEM is undesirable. However, as the Wellcome Trust highlighted, "pejorative descriptions of the exit from academia as a 'failure' or 'loss' from science are unhelpful" as "most of those who leave academia following completion of a PhD continue to use their scientific training in a way that benefits their career, their new employer and the economy".[342] The Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering (Cambridge AWiSE) stated that:

    When women leave STEM positions, they transition into a diversity of other positions. One category is people-oriented positions, including teaching, public engagement, science outreach, administration, helpline management, career advising, child-care or house-wife positions. Another is applied research positions, including industrial research roles, lab management, technician positions, sales and marketing. Others move into careers with more financial security, such as project management, patent law, publishing, politics, accounting, political lobbying and advising as well as scientific or management consulting.[343]

UCL stated that "women leaving academia are drawn to various jobs and sectors" and explained that it was "common for women to go to jobs in industry" because they were "often more secure and better paid, especially at junior levels".[344] It added that "women from science also end up in professional support roles" such as "Human Resources, teaching, positions in the NHS, administrative roles and research support posts".[345] Cardiff University stated that women moving into "administrative roles within a higher education institution, into science teaching at secondary or further education level or into roles in business and commerce" were "likely to put their scientific training to positive effect".[346] Therefore "scientifically trained women who leave academia are unlikely to be lost to productive employment and indeed are likely to make important contributions to the educational, social, business and economic good of the country".[347] As the Minister put it, "one person's leakage from STEM may be another person's irrigation of the wider community".[348] Nevertheless, the under-representation of women in STEM academic careers is "exacerbated by every woman who takes the decision to leave" and "the unique contributions and perspectives these women could bring to academic science are lost".[349] Having fewer women attaining senior positions "perpetuates the lack of role models for younger women studying STEM subjects" and also "results in the culture remaining masculine so that a 'chilly climate' for women persists".[350] It also represents "a loss of skills and talent and a waste of national resource in an area which is predicted to underpin economic growth".[351]

72. Finding comprehensive data on the destinations of women who leave STEM careers was problematic. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) cannot be used to "analyse the destinations of staff leaving academia by gender".[352] Vitae's 2011 What Do Researchers Do? publication showed that:

    of the 2004-05 cohort [of PhD graduates], 19% were working in HE research roles three and half years after graduation and 22% were employed in HE teaching and lecturing roles. The other 50% were employed outside HE in other research positions, doctoral occupations and other roles.[353]

Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Chair of the Royal Society's Diversity Programme, stated that the Royal Society was "trying to collect data on where people have gone to" because:

    while we talk about the leaky pipeline, the only line that we can realistically look at is the academic one. You can see how many undergraduates, doctorates, staff and professors you have. You can see the loss of people. What you don't know, and one of the things we are attempting to track, is where they have gone to. [...] We have the HESA data, and we are tracking [...] where people are going to in an attempt to find out how much of it is a genuine loss and how much of it is a change of career.[354]

73. Exit interviews and/or questionnaires can be used by employers to determine the reasons why staff leave or where they intend to go. When we asked Professor Uta Frith, Russell Group, whether and how exit questionnaires were used by HEIs, she responded that she "[did] not know of any such efforts or attempts to do that".[355] Professor Jane Powell, 1994 Group, explained that "there are questionnaires that will be developed to some extent locally as part of an exit interview procedure, which is done more or less erratically; it is sometimes difficult to get people to sit down for such an interview".[356] She also outlined the difficulties of accurately determining the reasons why staff "moved on" as it could be a combination of reasons rather than just one.[357] Professor Powell highlighted that "there have been new fields added to the HESA staff record [...] which will provide more information on reasons for leaving and destinations".[358] This data will be available from March 2014.[359] Mr Sweeney stated that HEFCE does not "mandate behaviour in universities at that level, but that is the sort of good practice that we would encourage and support".[360] He added that "the responsible people are the employers, the universities [and HEFCE's] core task is to get them to take their responsibility seriously and to discharge it".[361] The Government clarified that "there is no single body tasked with pulling together all data on gender diversity in STEM".[362] However it highlighted that "the Royal Society is carrying out a study of the diversity of the STEM workforce" and "will outline a new categorisation of the STEM workforce".[363] The Royal Society's report "will be published early in 2014 and will help us to understand further where women, and other under-represented groups, go when they leave STEM education or careers".[364]

74. Identifying the reasons why staff choose to end their employment in an organisation is crucial to identifying and challenging where poor behaviours and practices may exist. We are disappointed that information on the reasons why women leave academic STEM careers is patchy and largely anecdotal.

75. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should routinely conduct exit interviews and/or questionnaires with all researchers leaving their employment. Each HEI should publish this data in a suitably anonymised form so that organisations working to improve diversity in STEM can make use of it. Organisations such as the WISE Campaign, Equality Challenge Unit and national academies should advise HEIs on the best way to gather and publish this data in a consistent manner.

193   The four funding councils are the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland. Back

194   WSC 44 [Imperial College London] para 7 Back

195   WSC 90[ STFC WiSTEM Network] para 11.13 Back

196   WSC 88 [Queens' University Belfast] para 20 Back

197   WSC 74 [Society of Biology] para 8 Back

198   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 2 Back

199   Q 100 Back

200   Q 100  Back

201   Science and Technology Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2001-02, Short-term research contracts in science and engineering, HC 1046, para 14; for Government response see Science and Technology Committee, Fourth Special Report of Session 2002-03, Short term research contracts in science and engineering Government response to the committee's Eighth Report of Session 2001-02, HC 442 Back

202   WSC 44 [Imperial College London] para 7 Back

203   WSC 65 [Sean McWhinnie, Oxford Research and Policy, and Jan Peters, Katalytik] para 22; WSC 64 [Medical and Dental Schools Council] para 4.3.3 Back

204   WSC 68 [Society for Applied Microbiology]  Back

205   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 7.4 Back

206   WSC 96 [Bournemouth University] para 2.6 Back

207   WSC 51 [Equality Challenge Unit] para 3 Back

208   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 18 Back

209   WSC 22 [The Open University] para 15 Back

210   Q 70 Back

211   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 11  Back

212   WSC 65 [Sean McWhinnie, Oxford Research and Policy, and Jan Peters, Katalytik] para 22 Back

213   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 6 Back

214   WSC 49 [ScienceGrrl] para 3 Back

215   WSC 49 [ScienceGrrl] para 3 Back

216   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron]  Back

217   Q6 Dr Patron Back

218   Science is Vital Campaign, Careering out of control: a crisis in the UK science profession, October 2011, p.12, http://scienceisvital.org.uk  Back

219   WSC 7 [Prospect] para 7 Back

220   Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Back

221   Q157 Dr Thompson Back

222   Q157 Dr Thompson Back

223   Q157 Dr Thompson Back

224   WSC 38 [Women's Engineering Society] Back

225   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 18 Back

226   WSC 41 [Dr Katherine Sloyan] para 11; WSC 73 [London Mathematical Society] para 5.8 Back

227   WSC 42 [University of Oxford] para 39 Back

228   For example, WSC 37 [Newcastle University Universities and Colleges Union] para 7, WSC 19 [Cardiff University] para 12 Back

229   WSC 95 [Royal Academy of Engineering] para 23 Back

230   WSC 33 [Cambridge Association for Women in Science] para 7a Back

231   Q170 [Mr Willetts] Back

232   Q193 [Mr Willetts] Back

233   Q193 [Mr Willetts] Back

234   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 1 Back

235   WSC 66 [Physiological Society] para 9 Back

236   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 5.5 Back

237   WSC 17 [Plymouth Marine Laboratory] para 6; the h index considers both the number of published papers and the number of citations; for example, a researcher with an h index of 10 has written 10 papers that have received at least 10 citations each Back

238   WSC 95 [Royal Academy of Engineering] para 5 Back

239   WSC 85 [British Medical Association] para 19 Back

240   WSC 73 [London Mathematical Society] para 2.7 Back

241   WSC 66 [Physiological Society] para 8 Back

242   WSC 74 [Society of Biology] para 10 Back

243   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 5.6 Back

244   WSC 85 [British Medical Association] Back

245   WSC 74 [Society of Biology] para 10 Back

246   WSC 95 [Royal Academy of Engineering] para 15 Back

247   WSC 66 [Physiological Society] para 24 Back

248   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 11.9 Back

249   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 11.9 Back

250   Research Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework, http://www.ref.ac.uk; The deadline for REF submissions from HEIs was November 2013 Back

251   Research Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework, http://www.ref.ac.uk  Back

252   WSC 72 [Royal Society of Chemistry] para 40; Q143 Mr Sweeney Back

253   WSC 87 [HECFE] para 6  Back

254   WSC 87 [HEFCE] para 7 Back

255   Q146 Back

256   Q144 Mr Sweeney Back

257   Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Social Market Foundation, Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education, October 2013, p.56 Back

258   Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Social Market Foundation, Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education, October 2013, p.57, p.62 Back

259   WSC 74 [RSC] para 40 Back

260   Q 145 Back

261   Q 185 Mr Willetts Back

262   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 11 Back

263   Q 70 [Dr June McCombie] Back

264   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 11 Back

265   WSC 41 [Dr Katherine Sloyan] para 5 Back

266   Equality Act 2010, section 18 Back

267   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 12 Back

268   WSC 29 [University College London] para 7 Back

269   WSC 96 [Bournemouth University] para 2.4 Back

270   WSC 19 [Cardiff University] para 7 Back

271   WSC 42 [University of Oxford] para 13  Back

272   GOV.UK, Maternity pay and leave: Eligibility, https://www.gov.uk/  Back

273   WSC 12 [Katrine Rogers] para 3 Back

274   WSC 51 [Equality Challenge Unit] para 4 Back

275   WSC 96 [Bournemouth University] para 2.8 Back

276   WSC 71 [Russell Group Equality Forum] para 3 Back

277   WSC 90 [STFC WiSTEM Network] para 7.3  Back

278   WSC 71 [Russell Group Equality Forum] para 22 Back

279   WSC 71 [Russell Group Equality Forum] para 21 Back

280   Q13 Back

281   Q13 Jenny Marsden Back

282   WSC 55 [Newcastle University] para 4a.2 Back

283   WSC 55 [Newcastle University] para 4a.2 Back

284   WSC 74 [Society of Biology] para 28 Back

285   WSC 14 [University of Manchester] para 5.9 Back

286   WSC 91 [Wellcome Trust] para 21 Back

287   Q 159 Back

288   Children and Families Bill 2012-13 to 2013-14,Parliament, www.parliament.uk  Back

289   Department of Business , Innovation and Skills, Press release, Government outlines how mums and dads can use new shared parental leave system, 29 Nov 2013 Back

290   WSC 85 [British Medical Association] para 10 Back

291   WSC 15 [The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine] para 4 Back

292   WSC 14 [University of Manchester] para 3.1 Back

293   GOV.UK, Maximum weekly working hours, https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours  Back

294   WSC 66 [The Physiological Society] para 15 Back

295   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 17 Back

296   WSC 68 [Society for Applied Microbiology] Back

297   WSC 68 [Society for Applied Microbiology] Back

298   WSC 51 [Equality Challenge] Unit para 5 Back

299   WSC 95 [The Royal Academy of Engineering] para 6 Back

300   WSC 51 [Equality Challenge Unit] para 5 Back

301   WSC 51 [Equality Challenge Unit] para 5 Back

302   WSC 29 [University College London] para 7 Back

303   WSC 29 [University College London] para 7 Back

304   WSC 100 [The Daphne Jackson Trust] paras 1-2 Back

305   WSC 100 [Daphne Jackson Trust] para 3 Back

306   WSC 81 [Institute of Physics] para 12 Back

307   WSC 64 [Medical and Dental School Council] para 4.4; WSC 17 [Plymouth Marine Laboratory] para 6; WSC 97 [Russell Group of Universities] para 2.7;  Back

308   WSC 54 [Bryn Jones] para 3.3; WSC 74 [Society of Biology] para 12 Back

309   WSC 21 [Dr Nicola Patron] para 16 Back

310   Q10 Dr Patron Back

311   WSC 64 [Medical Schools Council and Dental Schools Council] para 7.5.1 Back

312   WSC 64 [Medical Schools and Dental Schools Council] para 7.5.1 Back

313   The Daphne Jackson Trust, Home, http://www.daphnejackson.org  Back

314   WSC 79 [Government] para 37 Back

315   The Daphne Jackson Trust, Support us, http://www.daphnejackson.org  Back

316   WSC 62 [Daphne Jackson Trust] Back

317   WSC 63 [Dr Gemma Sweeney] para 3 Back

318   WSC 62 [Daphne Jackson Trust] para 10 Back

319   WSC 62 [Daphne Jackson Trust] para 4 Back

320   WSC 62 [Daphne Jackson Trust] Back

321   Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Press release, Employers, educators and engineering professionals called on to encourage more people into engineering careers, 4 Nov 2013 Back

322   Q 201 Back

323   For example WSC 65 [Sean McWhinnie, Oxford Research and Policy, and Jan Peters, Katalytik] para 37, WSC 39 [Society for General Microbiology] Back

324   Q 49 Back

325   Q 50 Back

326   Q 50 Back

327   Q 50 Back

328   WSC 49 [ScienceGrrl] para 22 Back

329   WSC 54 [Dr Bryn Jones] para 2.12 Back

330   WSC 54 [Dr Bryn Jones] para 2.12 Back

331   WSC 81 [IOP] para 10 Back

332   WSC 68 [The Society for Applied Microbiology] Back

333   WSC 42 [The University of Oxford] para 23 Back

334   WSC 42 [The University of Oxford] para 23 Back

335   Q 156 Back

336   WSC 42 [The University of Oxford] para 23 Back

337   Q 185  Back

338   Q 185 Back

339   WSC 52 [Pier Logistics and Cardiff University] para 6.3  Back

340   WSC 52 [Pier Logistics and Cardiff University] para 6.3  Back

341   Science and Technology Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, Educating tomorrow's engineers: the impact of Government reforms on 14-19 education, HC 665, paras 77-86 Back

342   WSC 91 [Wellcome Trust] para 15 Back

343   WSC 33 [Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering] para 5a Back

344   WSC 29 [UCL] para 8 Back

345   WSC 29 [UCL] para 8 Back

346   WSC 19 [Cardiff University] para 8 Back

347   WSC 19 [Cardiff University] para 9 Back

348   Q 177 Back

349   WSC 19 [Cardiff University] para 9 Back

350   WSC 22 [Open University] para 20 Back

351   WSC 22 [Open University] para 22 Back

352   WSC 23 [RCUK] para 18 Back

353   WSC 23 [RCUK] para 19; Vitae, What do researchers do: Career Paths 2011, http://www.vitae.ac.uk  Back

354   Q 55 Back

355   Q 124 Back

356   Q 125 Back

357   Q 125 Back

358   Q 125 Back

359   Q 125 Back

360   Q 133 Back

361   Q 135 Back

362   WSC 105 [Government supplementary] Back

363   WSC 105 [Government supplementary] Back

364   WSC 105 [Government supplementary] Back

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Prepared 6 February 2014